I am 18 years old. Which means I am still technically a teenager. Which means statistically, I like to do hooligan things with cars. Even moreso statistically considering I am a car enthusiast.
From the late 1970s onward, Honda had been known as the motor vehicle manufacturer that made small cars with zippy enough engines that young people could have fun in. While Datsun and Toyota had the advantage of making objectively better cars, Honda had one huge advantage in the youth market.
It was cheap.
Cheap enough that most teenagers worldwide could afford something that Honda made, and that made the aftermarket scene for Honda products explode in popularity. Teenagers were purchasing cheap Hondas that could rival the performance of top of line Toyota and Nissan (Datsun) sports cars. In the United States, Honda sold most of it’s performance and youth focused cars under the Acura moniker. However, at the turn of the century, Acura began to try to go a different route. Honda wanted Acura to be respected on the same level as Lexus and Infiniti—as upper end luxury cars. Slowly but surely they moved their cars away from performance and more towards luxury.
But not before giving the fun loving engineers one last word. In 2001 Acura released the RSX as a successor to the widely popular Integra. It offered front-wheel drive, a 6 speed manual transmission, 200hp, and a double wishbone suspension. The double wishbone suspension meant the the frame was designed exactly how it sounds, like two wishbones. This meant that you could throw the car into a corner and not have to worry about it coming out the otherside alright or not.
The higher performance Type-S model used Honda’s VTEC technology that essentially acts as a pseudo turbocharger. VTEC stands for variable valve timing and lift electronic control. What that means in normal human speak is that the car would have two modes, full power and semi power. The car wouldn’t utilize full power until the engine had reached a certain RPM (revolutions per minute). Once it did, the car would utilize the entire 200hp given to it. The engineers at Honda gave it their all on this engine, as it was the last of the tunable K-series that the CEO’s of Honda let it make for these types of cars.
And therein lies the problem.
The RSX is the perfect case of an entry level sports car that works for everyone. It has 5 seats, 2 doors, and is technically a hatchback. It puts out 200hp from an I4 engine so it’s relatively fuel efficient too.
But Honda was so focused on attracting a new audience in order to charge them more money for what is essentially a fancy Honda Accord. To put it this way, a mid to upper range Acura isn’t marketed to the people who can actually afford it. The most expensive Acura sedan costs $55,000. Someone who can afford to spend $55,000 isn’t spending it on an Acura sedan that is front wheel drive and puts out similar horsepower to a $16,000 Honda Civic. Comparatively in Japan, Lexus makes the GS350, which costs a similar amount, but is rear-wheel drive and has far more power. Acura’s sales have been dropping alarmingly and I honestly think it’s because Acura is marketing towards the wrong people. They forget who the people were that made them Acura.
Slapping a bunch of leather on an Accord doesn’t make it a luxury car.
I loved the RSX because it was everything I love in a sports car—small, zippy, nimble, fun. I am extremely biased towards it because when I was I child I still remember my Uncle pulling into my driveway with a brand new 2004 RSX Type-S in Jet black. It was the first sports car I had any experience with at all, and I was only 6 years old at the time. Honda discontinued the RSX in 2006 and they have been disappearing rapidly.
I personally would liked to have purchased one, but all the ones I have found so far have extremely high miles and have already been modded to hell. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to mod an RSX to hell and back, but I want to do it, not buy it off someone else. The RSX’s left on the market are TOO cheap. Most are selling for around $3k, and call me insane but I would love to pay close to $10-$12k for a late model Type-S RSX with low miles. The fact that Acura stopped making these meant that either the cars left on sale have damn near 250,000 miles on them or have been scrapped.
I fear that the next generation of car enthusiast will not be able to say that they did hooligan things with the cars they bought and modified. A big tenet to being an enthusiast is understanding that anyone can buy the same car, but only you can change your car to be the exact car you want it to be. It helps form a bond between you and the car. And while yes, some of those modifications may or may not be illegal/help you do illegal things, that’s half the thrill.
Modern cheap cars have next to no soul, and while there has been somewhat of a resurgence in cheap sports car, I think it’s important to look back at what we once could do. Lest we not doom ourselves to the days of the Prius.